Birds of a Feather: A Review of The Desparate Adventures of Zeno & Alya

What does a parrot have in common with an eleven-year-old girl?  A lot more than you might think! Ever since the true story of Alex, an African Grey parrot, came to light, it's become plain that birds are more intelligent than we give them credit for.  Alex could not only mimic words, but he could also make new sentences, showing that he understood the words' meanings.  His real-life story caused a revolution in animal science, proving that birds can think at about the level of a five- or six-year-old human child!

Jane Kelley took inspiration from Alex's talents in her novel The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya, the story of a tenacious parrot named Zeno, and a girl about to run out of hope.  Zeno is as smart as the real-life Alex, with a vocabulary of 127 words.  He is proud and independent - until his whole life changes for the worse.  Zeno has to learn that there is more to life than showing off, and that friendship comes in unexpected packages.  And he must also learn the meaning of his most important new vocabulary word: home.

This novel is definitely for animal lovers.  But it will also speak to anyone who has ever been on the brink of not trying when life becomes difficult.  The sweet story of Zeno and Alya has humor and tears, compassion and selfishness, friendship and banana nut muffins.  It will leave you feeling inspired never to give up hope, and always to find friendship where you can.  Recommended for animal-lovers and others in 5th and 6th grade.